Wes Morgan

The Making Of An LCFC Captain – Wallington, Walsh & Elliott On Morgan

The only Leicester City skipper to lift the Premier League trophy, the FA Cup and lead the Club into the UEFA Champions League, Wes Morgan’s legacy is forever secured.
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It was, of course, fitting that after 324 appearances across nine years, the 37-year-old was able to become the first Leicester captain in the Club’s 137-year history to lift the FA Cup trophy, making the final appearance of his distinguished career in the Wembley showpiece.

Mark Wallington, Steve Walsh and Matt Elliott have also captained the Foxes through iconic points in the Club’s long history. Here, they all have a say on their own memories of being skipper…

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Steve Walsh
Steve Walsh

Walsh leads the celebrations after beating Derby at Wembley.

"As soon as you come out, that sea of blue greets you, it’s quite emotional, especially for me because of that extra responsibility of being captain."

Leicester icon Walsh had the honour of leading his side out for two consecutive First Division Play-Off Finals at the start of the 1990s, as City looked to reach the newly formed Premier League.

For Walsh, the atmosphere and occasion became even more special given that he was proudly wearing the armband in front of the Blue Army.

“I took us out against Blackburn Rovers and Swindon,” he remembered. “And then I think Gary Mills was captain for the Derby final.

“Even just to walk out of that tunnel at Wembley with that captain’s armband on, it means so much more, in the fact that you’ve reached a big final.

“I can still remember it, the Blackburn final. It was red hot that day and that was the first one that I was captain for. Although we didn’t win, I can remember the national anthem.

“As soon as you come out, that sea of blue greets you, it’s quite emotional, especially for me because of that extra responsibility of being captain.

“It was terrific to be captain, especially for play-off finals. To actually captain the team, first of all, after the years that I had, was fantastic.”

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Steve Walsh
Steve Walsh

Walsh ensured all the players knew their roles when they stepped out onto the pitch.

"It was just an incredible ride that I had and I’ll never forget the memories of being captain of this Football Club.”

In 14 years with City, Walsh featured on 449 occasions in total, many as the skipper, as Leicester eventually reached the top flight at the third attempt.

From there on, City fans would enjoy many memorable moments of success during the mid to late 1990s, including consecutive ninth-place finishes in the Premier League, League Cup Final triumphs and a UEFA Cup adventure.

“It was a massive honour for me to have that role, captain the Club and be in charge of the players from that side of the fence,” he commented. “To play a part as the standout captain, it was great for me.

“As the years went by, the emotions and the connection that I had with the fans was really terrific. Every time I went out onto the pitch, I could feel that pride.

“Throughout those years as I got closer to the fans, it was just an incredible ride that I had and I’ll never forget the memories of being captain of this Football Club.”

Brian Little named Walsh as captain in 1992 but it wasn’t the only role he provided him with, while Walsh’s off-the-field responsibilities were also very important in helping the squad to function at its best.

“We had a very good relationship,” Walsh recalled. “Brian lived round the corner from me and there were many times I’d be invited and go round to have a chat.

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Steve Walsh
Steve Walsh

The Foxes skipper led the team out against Atlético Madrid in the UEFA Cup.

"I think that was my attribute, that belief to come back from losing positions, to retrieve games through pure passion, heart and wearing your heart on your sleeve."

“In training, he used to train and I would go and play up front with him. I think he felt I could play up front if needed, because I could finish in training. I loved going up front and he gave me that opportunity as well.

“Not only did he give me the captaincy, he also gave me a chance of playing up front - to keep me out of trouble mainly! He was one of the best managers that I’d played under, along with Martin O’Neill.

“I was a go-between for the players and the manager at times, you have to take on that responsibility, you have to do that well and manage that right, and the other jobs that came with it. Looking after the lads in a sense, especially when we went out.

“I was more vocal in the dressing room. I wasn’t educated in what I was saying but it was more a roar of: ‘come on lads, we can do it!’ and I do believe that instilled a sense of going to war, that’s how I felt.

“It was backs against the wall, I wouldn’t let anyone down without a fight and I think that was my attribute, that belief to come back from losing positions, to retrieve games through pure passion, heart and wearing your heart on your sleeve.

“There’s no doubt I was that type of captain. Every time we went on that pitch, I expected those lads to die for me and that’s how it was.

“I was always on the players’ side, and I was always honest on the pitch, but I would always be honest with the manager, I think that was important, they trusted me.”

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Matt Elliott & Neil Lennon
Matt Elliott & Neil Lennon

Neil Lennon was a prime candidate to be the next captain after Steve Walsh, Elliott felt.

"I got the nod, and it was probably Martin [O'Neill] being clever because it brought me out of myself a bit, gave me extra confidence."

Captains come in all shapes and sizes, but their influence is of key importance to the running of the Club. Elliott succeeded Walsh, given the role by O’Neill, though the latter remained as the Club skipper. His approach was very different, but equally effective.

“It was relatively early into my time at Leicester City really,” Elliott began. “Coming to the Club, Walshy was Club captain, but I think it was down to his injuries that Martin [O’Neill] thought we should officially appoint a team captain.

“He just sat me down and asked pretty casually how I fancied being captain of the team. I wasn’t expecting that, and my first thought was about Walshy. He’d been the captain for years; I didn’t want there to be an issue there.

“I said: 'I’d be delighted'. I was excited about it but very surprised to be honest. It caught me off guard, but when you’re asked, it’s not the sort of opportunity that you decline. I was very proud.

“I wasn’t a newcomer, but I didn’t feel like I’d been around long enough to warrant being captain, some lads had been there a lot longer than me, but Martin saw certain attributes in my make-up to appoint me as captain.

“I got the nod, and it was probably Martin being clever because it brought me out of myself a bit, gave me extra confidence. If he had believed in me to be captain, I thought I must be doing something right.

“Neil Lennon already had that and him being captain maybe wasn’t going to be improve him. And he’s a bit fiery, Lenny, a great player and a great personality and character, but he’d be arguing left, right and centre with everyone, I think! I was more of a mediator.”

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Matt Elliott
Matt Elliott

Elliott led by example with his commanding performances on the pitch.

"As a group we didn’t need someone to be captain courageous and be a dominant figure. I wasn’t someone who would comfortably do that, it wasn’t in my natural make-up."

Elliott saw the dressing room atmosphere as a key factor in the cohesion of City’s squad under O’Neill in the late 1990s and as captain, he stood at the very forefront of that. The pinnacle of that was his two goals in the 2000 League Cup Final to lead Leicester to success over Tranmere Rovers.  

“Initially, not a lot changed because we had quite a lot of strong characters in the changing room, and we sort of managed ourselves really,” he recalled. “There was no definite directive from Martin because we were doing relatively well anyway.

“We had a good group, a good spirit between us. We had a mismatch of characters that somehow gelled together, and we had a number of players within that squad who could have been captain.

“As a group we didn’t need someone to be captain courageous if you like and be a dominant figure. I wasn’t someone who would comfortably do that, it wasn’t in my natural make-up. We just balanced each other out and motivated each other.

“It was to lead by example rather than a roll your sleeves up and get up and at them manner, I wasn’t a shouter. I talked quite a lot on the pitch in terms of organisation and encouragement, more so as I got a bit older and more accustomed to being at the Club and in that role.

"I remember one game I was at the front in the tunnel about to lead the team out and it was one of my earlier games as captain.

“Ian Marshall was at the back of the line-up and in his high pitch scouse accent he shouted: ‘come on, leader of men! Captain, take us out to war!’, and the opposition could hear him. He was my roommate as well and I was thinking: ‘with mates like that, who needs enemies!’.

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Martin O'Neill & Matt Elliott
Martin O'Neill & Matt Elliott

Elliott captained the Foxes to League Cup glory under Martin O'Neill in 2000.

"But even though I was captain, I very much remained one of the boys. I didn’t separate myself from the squad, whether socially or on the pitch."

“It was just taking the mick really and the other lads were having a bit of a chuckle. I just ignored him and got on with it, it was that sort of environment, really. If I stood up and pretended to be someone I wasn’t, the lads would have soon pulled me down.”

The captain’s relationship with his manager is also an important factor, as Elliott explains. The defender would go on to be coached and led by several different managers during his time as skipper and his own role changed and developed.

He commented: “In my later years at Leicester, every now and then, Martin would give me a message that he wanted to get across to the players. Not covertly, but quite subtly. He would give me that responsibility rather than calling a meeting all the time and making a big statement.

“It was just little bits and pieces because Martin was the dominant force in the Club. He was the leader, so we did what he said, there wasn’t any opposition. I could relay things from the players to the manager and sometimes from the manager to the players.

“But even though I was captain, I very much remained one of the boys. I didn’t separate myself from the squad, whether socially or on the pitch.

“Then Peter Taylor gave me more responsibility and more onus as a captain to organise things from a player point of view, because he probably thought I’d been around by then.

“I was established at Leicester City and, not part of the furniture, but consolidated within the squad and the Club. And similar with Dave Bassett when he came in.”

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Matt Elliott
Matt Elliott

Elliott could be a joker in the dressing room despite wearing the captain's armband.

"All the players have got to have that belief in you as a player on the pitch and what your attributes are. I think they also need the comfort that they are on your side."

Walsh, meanwhile, also looks back on his highly-successful time at the Club, and in particular his spell as captain, fondly, and also discussed what makes a good captain.

“I was thankful that I got my opportunity to be captain and to wear it was an honour for me and I think I honoured that well,” he remarked. “They needed me sometimes in that dressing room.

“All the players have got to have that belief in you as a player on the pitch and what your attributes are. I think they also need the comfort that they are on your side, that is the ultimate.

“The welfare of every player and those that aren’t even playing, that you can help someone when they are down. There’s a lot of responsibilities, especially off the field now, it’s a lot different.

“It was important to address things correctly. Nowadays, the captain’s role is huge, wherever they go in the community.”

Goalkeeper Mark Wallington spent 14 years at Filbert Street between 1971 and 1985, making 460 appearances across his long stint with the Club.

Succeeding Gordon Banks and then Peter Shilton between the sticks, it was not until the 1974/75 season that Wallington became a regular in City’s starting XI, achieving a Club record of 331 consecutive games that lasted until 1982.

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Mark Wallington
Mark Wallington

Wallington made a name for himself as captain at Leicester City after succeeding two of England's all-time greatest goalkeepers.

"You’ve got a detached view of things from a certain degree. So, I think being skipper from a goalkeeping position is a good move.”

He went on to be one of the Club’s longest serving players and was the only ‘keeper to have played over 400 times for Leicester until Kasper Schmeichel also achieved the feat – another shot-stopper to have worn the armband.

Wallington was proud to be given the opportunity and responsibility of being made captain after establishing himself in the first team.

Jock Wallace made me captain and I think, as a senior player, as I was, it was a privilege,” he recalled. “Because you don’t just captain the team on the field, there is a lot of work that goes on in the running of the Club that you are a part of as captain.

“Particularly the welfare of the youngsters, you look after all the players. You are the go between if you like between the management and the players and the supporters, it’s a very pivotal role being captain.

“On the pitch, I think with the experience, Jock thought I would do a good job and at the same time, goalkeeper Dino Zoff was captain of Italy who went on to win the World Cup, so I think it was something that people looked at.

“Skippers from the back, as [Kasper] Schmeichel is now, where he can see everything, he can relay communications to the front men via the players and you’ve got a detached view of things from a certain degree. So, I think being skipper from a goalkeeping position is a good move.”

Wallington believes longevity and experience are important factors when choosing a skipper, a role which involved more than just on the pitch matters.

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Mark Wallington
Mark Wallington

Wallington skippered the side during his run of playing every Leicester City game for six successive seasons.

"You’re not just involved on the pitch, you’re involved with the whole of the Club and I felt the captaincy was an important part of the Club, apart from the actual playing.”

A respected member of the dressing room, he had to show good leadership qualities and deal with many younger players who were taking their first steps in the game.

“At the time it was a great honour in a great tradition of what captains do,” he continued. “When you looked at the captains of all the teams, it was something that you wanted, to be the captain. You always wanted to try and influence things.

“Jock had come in and he released a lot of the old guard that were there when I first started to play. There were a lot of young lads that he’d brought down from Scotland that were coming through and making their debuts.

“Gary Lineker made his debut at 17 or 18, Dave Buchanan made his debut at 16 or 17, Neil Grewcock, a lot of these young apprentices were making their debuts under Jock and as the older head, I enjoyed looking after them, I think that’s essential.

“I went on to teach for 20 years when I finished football and my association in leading and trying to put that into the football context stood me in good stead for being captain, they were good skills to have.

“It was varied skills as well, because you’re not just involved on the pitch, you’re involved with the whole Club and I felt the captaincy was an important part of that, apart from the actual playing.”

Centre-back Walsh, on the other hand, sees similarities with himself in departing icon Morgan, who, although played fewer games in his final few seasons, still carried an aurora and the experience required to help many of the younger players.  

“Even when I wasn’t playing, there was an influence,” Walsh added. “Wes Morgan has got exactly that. I believe he’s got a lot to give the dressing room and he knows everything about the Club.

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Leicester City
Leicester City

A brilliant end to Wes Morgan's Leicester City career, lifting the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium.

"The way Wes Morgan handled situations and his presence, he’s a great guy and he’s done a sterling job over the years."

“He’s come through a lot of emotions, and I think he’s a vital part of the Football Club. That’s how top captains are regarded, how they work, and he’s loves this Club. He’s a very humble guy, a really nice fella to meet and his influence in that dressing room is huge.

“He once said to me: ‘I’m trying to just follow your legacy’, which was a nice compliment for him to give. I see what he did for this football club, you can put him on the highest pedestal as one of the best and most influential captains that has ever been at the Club.

“There’s no doubt in my mind about that. The way he’s handled situations and his presence, he’s a great guy and he’s done a sterling job over the years. I’m pleased that he lifted and won something big as that. He deserves everything.”

Wallington was similarly effusive in his praise for City’s colossal No.5, who departs after securing two major honours, including the FA Cup for the first time in the Club’s history.

“He (Wes Morgan) would have been so made up to do that,” the former shot-stopper commented. “He’s struggled with injury a bit this year and hasn’t played on a regular basis, but to come on and just see it through at the end, it was absolutely brilliant.

“It’s like a cake mixture to me. When you bake a cake at a football club, you’ve got lots of ingredients going in and one of the main ingredients is experience.

“With players like Wes Morgan and Kasper Schmeichel, they’ve helped the young players. You need that mixture, and you need these ingredients and different characters.

“But you need someone to gel that all together and on and off the pitch. Wes has done that brilliantly.”

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Leicester City
Leicester City

Morgan saviours the moment before lifting the Premier League trophy aloft alongside Claudio Ranieri.

“Even Wes himself couldn’t have foreseen what would happen in the second half of his career, he’s done exceptionally well."

Also evaluating the career of Club legend Morgan, Elliott credited his character for coming through from the second tier to rise right to the very pinnacle of the game by winning the Premier League and scoring in City’s run to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League.

He concluded: “It’s an incredible story with Wes, isn’t it? Everyone knows the history, coming to the final stages of his career in the Championship and then getting an opportunity with Leicester and grabbing it with both hands.

“Even Wes couldn’t have foreseen what would happen in the second half of his career, but he’s done exceptionally well. I know him to a degree, and he seems a very easy-going character.

“Underneath that is a strong determination and professionalism to do what he’s done in the latter stages of his career. As a captain, he’s a good talker on the pitch, but not loud and ferocious and bellowing.

“He just carries himself well, doesn’t demand respect, but he gets it from his peers. You can tell that from what he does around the training ground and around the Club in general. He gets the balance right and to see how he’s applied himself gives inspiration to the players around him.

“As a young player, if you can see Wes Morgan and what he’s ended up achieving through knuckling down, being professional, being consistent, being disciplined and being determined, then what better motivation do they need to go and make the best out of their careers?

“Wes has been exceptional in his time at the Club.”

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